Third-Year Performance Report by Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction March 2019 to March 2020
‘This is a wonderful age when children become not only more able to take care of themselves, but also more socially active. At this age, they actively observer and explore the world and grow. The progress that we made and interesting things that happened to us during this year were the first things that we were keen to explore and understand.
We, and in the first instance, our team have changed considerably. Many new people joined us, bringing new ideas and unlimited inspiration. Those who resigned did not break up with us. Instead, they left for new themselves. We are happy that they remain connected to Ecoaction and further spread our values.
With effect from this year, our Executive Director Iryna Stavchuk has been addressing the climate policy at a next level in her new quality of the Deputy Minister of Energy and Environmental Protection. Now, it is my honour to lead Ecoaction to new achievements.
This year, we, together with our partners, organised the largest climate march in Ukraine, together with activists, had a chance to learn how to measure the condition of the environment, and explored, from space, the use of Ukrainian land by agribusinesses, while photo and video evidence cameras had almost started operating on the roads, and the construction of old, half-constructed nuclear units of the Khmelnitsky NPP did not resume. These and many other successes are described in detail in our report.
Ecoaction Executive Director
We are Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction, a civil society organisation bringing together experts and activists to protect the environment through influencing the decision-making and the development of an active community since March 2017. We are 30 members, 25 employees, more than 150 volunteers and 13,000 advocates. We are a concerned Ukrainian community, sharing the following values:
- Consistency and drive for decisions
- Joining for joint actions
- No violence
We actively cooperate with the Media. This year, we supported 22 releases of the EcoSapiens show broadcasted on Hromadske Radio. We told to ‘Ukrainska Pravda. Zhyttia’ why one should join climate marches. We raised the matter of a just land policy in the Commons magazine. In the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia newspaper, we provided explanations about the transformation of coal regions and the outcomes of COP25 (an international climate conference). In the business edition of the Novoe Vremia magazine, we published articles unveiling what professions will be relevant in the future and explaining why nuclear power will not save us from the climate change. In the regular edition of the Novoe Vremia magazine, we disclosed the reasons for and consequences of the fires in Australia. In the Ekonomichna Pravda newspaper, one can read our article about how to make peace between Ukrainians and their utility bills. The Radio Liberty Ukraine keeps, on its records, our interview about an abnormally warm winter. You could have heard from us from hundreds of pages of the online media, TV channels and radio stations. We extend our thanks to reporters for their interest and trust in what we do and what we say.
We are members of numerous international and local networks and associations, such as Climate Action Network EECCA, CEE Bankwatch Network, Coalition on Human Rights in Development, INFORSE Europe, Land Matrix, Transport and Environment, the Ukrainian Climate Action Network, the Ukrainian Rural Development Network, and the Ukrainian Urban Movement.
Education is, probably, the most serious exercise for the third year of a child’s life. Over this year, we have learned a lot and helped others with their learning.
This summer, we, together with 25 other people from six regions, representing consolidated territorial communities, campaigners and persons engaged in ecological business, learned the basics of monitoring of the environment, including air, soils, and water. At a Dnipro-based environmental laboratory, we discovered how the measurements are performed, and, of course, tried to make our own measurements, both in the laboratory and in the field. Some of the trainees launched or scheduled their own, local public monitoring projects.
Now, in the face of adverse environmental impacts, the public cannot, unfortunately, influence the situation, nor is it even able to learn about the real state of affairs. There is virtually no publicly available up-to-date data reflecting the quality of water, air or soils in Ukraine.
Of course, our development was not reduced to environmental protection only. We continued, among other things, to improve one of the most important skills for the modern hu
man – the English language skills. This year saw eleven conversation clubs that took place with the efforts of our members and volunteers. The parties to the conversation clubs discussed various matters ranging from the importance of forests to smart homes.
We should also mention a few words about young generation. We, together with our friends from SvitOsvit, arranged materials for a renewable energy lesson for pupils and students. Our goal was to tell the pupils and students where the energy comes from and why solar and wind energy is better than that generated with coal, oil and gas. We created materials in Ukrainian for a teacher or a volunteer who will conduct a lesson, a presentation, additional materials for games and exercises, and the description of how the lesson should be conducted. If children that you want to attend this lesson live in Kyiv, you can write us and our volunteers will give the lesson for them.
It is not only children but also adults who need learning. Accordingly, more mature people were also able to take lessons with us this year. Austrian Tomas Waitz, a member of the European Green Party and the European Parliament’s Agricultural and Rural Development Committee (the “AGRI”), who is also a farmer, came to Ukraine this year. Mr Waitz has been practicing sustainable farming in Austria for decades and has been promoting it around the world. It is about farming and sustainable or smart agriculture that Thomas spoke at our meeting last spring.
The exploration of the surrounding world is another important task of a growing body. During this year, we, either independently or in cooperation with other stakeholders, completed a great deal of research and exploratory work.
Together with our colleagues and independent experts, we also worked out what Ukraine should do to achieve a reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate the effects of the climate change in the next ten years. We developed a kind of guide for the Government, outlining relevant goals for five sectors. Energy, housing, transport, waste management, consolidated agriculture, forestry, and other land use sectors are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and we can, and must, develop them in a manner that would allow us to cut their emissions. The public’s view is based on international experience and expert knowledge. We hope that the Government will accept our assistance and take these suggestions into account.
Independent experts from four countries — Germany, Romania, the Czech Republic and Ukraine — investigated into how their mining regions abandoned the coal industry and shifted to more environmentally friendly economy. Although some of them performed seamlessly, the others experienced certain difficulties. However, all these countries gained their own unique experience. This work took a long time, but it is in 2020 that we finally presented a study describing the experience earned and, most importantly, the conclusions that could be drawn from it to continue with the phasing-out of coal in a fair and smooth manner.
This year, we determined the largest water consumers in Ukraine and compared the findings with similar EU data. Then, we attempted to find out what they do there to mitigate adverse impacts on water resources. It turned out that, as official data shows, a half of our water consumption is accounted for by the industry, power and housing sectors. However, the agricultural sector is the largest global consumer of potable water (more than 70%). Official Ukrainian statistics say that the domestic agricultural sector consumes only 20%. This is because no records of water consumption and, not least importantly, contamination by agribusinesses are properly kept. Many farms are not even required to report when, where and how much water they have used and how much waste water they have discharged. The experience of our western neighbours shows that an effective control over water use by different industries encourages the latter to improve the way they work in order to reduce damage. Consequently, the public enjoys cleaner water and a balanced demand for it.
The latest technologies and space imagery allowed us to discover how the Ukrainian land has been used since the early 2000s. For example, we found out that agribusinesses do not always use responsibly one of our most valuable resources — our land. Land plots vulnerable to erosion are destroyed as time passes, and such business practices do not help matters. The nature reserve areas, which normally should remain intact, are also destroyed. We understood this after looking at only three land plots. The established technology will allow us to continue and, in due course, extend our observations.
In addition, we continued our cooperation with the Land Matrix project, which keeps a close watch on who owns agricultural land. Together with volunteers, we collected information evidencing, on more than 150 occasions, the purchase by foreign investors of agricultural and forest land with a total area of more than five million hectares in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. And we continue our monitoring.
Social interaction is, probably, the most important element of a child’s development at age three. It is communications and interaction that help us to explore the world, to learn, to grow up and to become better. Over the course of this year, we had time to work and share our experience with a huge number of individuals and organisations from various fields and sectors. And all of them (and, more specifically, all of You!) helped us on our journey.
At the end of the previous year, Energy Transition, a coalition of six nongovernmental organisations, including us, for the phasing out of dirty energy industries and the active development of clean renewable energy sources, needed your support. Together, we launched a petition calling for the transition to 100% renewable energy (RES) in Ukraine by 2050. Almost 14,000 people joined our call – a quantity we did not expect even in the most ambitious plans! Your support inspires us and gives us strength to move on. Recently, we and the coalition gathered and voiced a call for the transition to 100% RES as part of a photo action. More specifically, we passed the petition specifying the names of 14 thousand people who signed it, to the representatives of the Ministry.
A petition is not the only way to bring people together to address such a seemingly complicated issue. In September, two thousand Ukrainians from 20+ cities joined millions of people around the world for a climate march. We came there to raise our concern about the climate crisis and to demand that the governments act proactively to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate adverse human impacts on the climate. We are happy that we were one of ten organisations that inspired all these people to hit the streets for their future. And we continue to uphold the claims that we raised in the streets.
Not only non-governmental organisations but also entire settlements joined their efforts for the future. Six mining towns in the Donetsk Region signed a Memorandum of Partnership and established a Sustainable Development Platform. Now, the Mayors of those towns work together to develop their region, to find new solutions to challenges faced by the mining towns, and to create projects that are safe for and beneficial to both people and the environment. On our part, we provide them with necessary assistance and support on this way.
It is unanimity and joint action that are key to success. This is evident even for those countries who attended the climate conference (COP25) for the twenty-fifth year in a row (this time in Madrid). There, they yet again discussed how the world should combat the climate change and what rules should govern these joint efforts. We, as members of the public, also joined the conference to follow the process, to remind the governments that we expect meaningful and urgent action, and to have a talk with, and to learn from, many colleagues from all over the world. On our return, we told what the parties had agreed on and how Ukraine came out at these negotiations.
We exchanged experience with public organisations from neighbouring countries at a meeting of CAN (Climate Action Network) EECCA in Armenia. Over the course of three days, we discussed with our colleagues the latest climate policy news, prospects for developing renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels in the countries of the region. We spent much time analysing the network, its strengths and weaknesses, and a media training session, after which everyone felt like high-quality communicators. And of course, practical experience. We, for a long while and closely, questioned employees of a solar power plant near Yerevan about its advantages, functionalities and general trends in the use of solar energy in Armenia.
CAN is a climate action network bringing together 1,400+ environmental NGOs all over the world (including 50+ organisations in the area). During the meeting, its participants elected a new board of CAN EECCA. Our Olha Boiko was appointed new coordinator.
Public activity is sometimes difficult. Sometimes its results can be difficult to see, measure or relate to your work. But, one way or the other, the civil society and we, as its members, have become the drivers of important changes this year.
The Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection started developing, little by little, its climate policy. This year, the Ministry developed its Green Transition Concept. The Ministry further plans to prepare an integrated energy and climate action plan and to revise its energy strategy. All those documents are expected to assist Ukraine with cutting its greenhouse gas emissions and, accordingly, mitigating the climate change impacts. Although those documents are not ambitious enough, we believe that, together, we can improve them.
The introduction of photo and video evidence cameras advances slowly but surely. Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko promised that the cameras will finally be put into operation in July 2020. As early as in 2017, more than one and a half thousands of Kyiv residents signed a petition calling for a prompt introduction of such a system. Later, campaigners submitted it to the Minister of Internal Affairs as part of a public action. We actively support this initiative because photo and video evidence cameras will not only make our roads safer, but also will help to free up bus lanes from private cars that interfere with the traffic of buses and trolleybuses. The more convenient and rapid the public transport is, the more passengers it will be able to carry, which means less cars and their harmful emissions in urban settlements.
Finally, last but not least win for Ukraine and Ecoaction is that the construction of two nuclear units of the Khmelnytskyi NPP did not started and is not even planned. You assisted us in opposing, and opposed, by submitting your comments to the project, the installation of Russian reactors at the obsolete and worn structures of the plant. Although we do not know for sure what influenced the decision-makers — either the pressure put by the public or the high cost of, and the lack of prospects for, the project, or almost the entire world phasing out dangerous nuclear power, or all these things taken together — this win remains a great joy.
Your confidence in us is the greatest of our achievements for the year. We are entering the fourth year of our life with 13,000 persons who regularly express interest in our activities and 30 other people who believe in us so much so that became our members. Forty like-minders joined our volunteer community this year. All our achievements would be impossible and unimportant without each of you who helps, supports, and rejoices with us.
We tried our best to communicate and interact with both our colleagues and partners and Ukrainians from very different sectors and of very different interests. The number of people who follow us through various social media or even become our followers by signing up for our newsletters increased significantly.
In conclusion, we would like to raise some serious issues. In this section, we will disclose a little more information about how our organization works and, of course, how we spend money donated to us.
We organise our work using a strategic approach. Our planning involves the setting of long- and medium-term and annual goals for each of our focus areas ) (their tasks are available on our website), as well as indicators and activities required to achieve the same. The three-year planning cycle for the period 2017 to 2020 will expire soon and we will set our new long-term goals in 2020.
The activities of the organisation are directed in accordance with resolutions of its annual General Meetings of Members (with the most recent held in April 2019) by an independent Board of Directors comprising five members of the organisation (Vladlena Martsinkevich (Chair of the Board), Iryna Holovko, Anna Ackermann, Irina Khitryk and Oleh Savytskyi) and supervised by a Supervisory Board comprising three independent experts (Jan Haverkamp, Denis Tsutsayev and Hüb Schele).
The Organizational Development Strategy for 2018 to 2020 is also coming to an end. However, in this year we achieved important results to ensure the transparency and success of our future work. In particular, we developed and approved job descriptions, introduced an updated staff evaluation and development system, and improved a financial management system and a system for automated tracking of project balances. Over this year, our team attended more than 20 training sessions and events necessary for our development, and conducted nearly 100 events with the involvement of volunteers and campaigners as part of our campaigns.